Training Your Puppy

Puppies; they’re cute adorable bundles of fluff that love to follow you at your heels and sleep in your lap. In fact, they’re so sweet that you’ve probably become convinced that they’re perfect after only having your new puppy home for a few hours. Sure he has had a couple of accidents, but he’s so well behaved! He never barks, chews, or does anything bad! Well, we hate to burst your bubble, but this period isn’t going to last. Right now, your baby puppy is almost too young to be bad. Now don’t get us wrong, they can get into a lot of mischief while 8-9 weeks old, but mostly they just eat, sleep, and go potty. But soon, they’re going to get bigger, have more energy, and more teeth and start being rambunctious little whirlwinds.


Now is the time to start training your puppy. You don’t want to wait until their six months old to suddenly realize that your puppy has grown up with no rules and free reign of your home. Starting healthy and safe habits early in life will help you and your puppy to have a long-lasting and positive relationship.


Even the youngest new puppy can learn to “sit,” “lie down,” “stay” and “come” when asked. But looking at your innocent new puppy, it’s hard to imagine that training would be necessary at all. Of course, it always is. During training, we should view our pets as companions who both understand and respond to us. Training should be considered as a means of teaching pets good manners so that, as our puppies mature into adult dogs, they’ll be welcome both in our homes and outdoors in public. For practical purposes, training should be initiated as early as possible, and all members of your household should participate.


It’s most likely that your puppy will view only one or two members of your household as alphas, but he or she should be trained to listen to anyone in the house, both for safety reasons and for ease of living. You don’t want to teach your puppy that it only needs to listen to you. This may make them act out with others like other family members or loved ones. Raising a puppy is a team sport, and everyone needs to play.


Puppy Training Reward System

Puppies learn best when they receive exciting rewards for their efforts. Even the youngest and tiniest puppy will be enthusiastic about food treats and will be eager to work with you. Experiment to find your puppy’s favorite reward, whether it’s food, a tossed toy or a warm word of praise. Only positive, gentle methods should be used – punishment is likely to harm your puppy’s confidence and has no place in good training. Puppies, like children and even adult humans, learn best when they enjoy the learning process and receive something in return. In the home or in the park, differences are usually very obvious between reward-trained dogs and those trained by force.


Keep in mind that one treat will not work for all puppies. Some may like dry treats while others need juicer temptations. For breeds that have strong noses, like hounds, you may need to put in a lot of work to find the treat that gets you puppy’s nose off the ground and pointed at you. But don’t lose patience. This process may take a few tries, but it will be worth it in the end.


Puppy Training Command System

Training should utilize word cues – “commands” – that will be of practical use to you as your pup’s human companion. The most helpful tools are “sit,” “lay down,” “stay” and “come.” It’s also important to teach your puppy to walk on a leash without tugging. If you have intentions of enrolling your dog in obedience competition, you will need to train a formal “heel, ” but this can wait until your puppy is older. For future obedience competition candidates, enrolling your pup in a puppy training class is highly advisable.


Puppies can also benefit from nonverbal commands, such as hand signals. This way, if you’re ever in a loud environment, you’ll be able to signal to your puppy the behavior that you’re looking for, and he will be able to respond. Pair each verbal command with a gesture and utilize that gesture every time you employ your command. When your puppy is older you can start switching between vocal only, gesture only, or dual commands.

Obedience Training Philosophies: What Kind Is Best for Your Dog?

Obedience training is basically an education in good manners. And, just as it’s more pleasant to be around well-mannered people, so a well-behaved dog is more warmly welcomed than his overactive, aggressive canine cousin.

In fact, obedience training is critical in nurturing the most positive aspects of human-animal relationship. Its basic elements – sit, down, stay, come and heel – help shape a good canine citizen.

Obedience-trained dogs have an easier life than their untrained peers. If they resist jumping up on strangers, sit or lie quietly when asked, and walk politely on lead, they’re bound to spend more time with their owners going to picnics, ballparks and dinner parties. So, instead of thinking of a training program as a series of empty rituals, think of an education that will assist your dog coping in the real world.

Obedience Classes

If you’re inexperienced with training, consider enrolling your dog in a formal class (puppies can join “kindergartens” or pre-novice classes).

Most basic obedience classes – typically at the “novice” or “pre-novice” level – include the basic exercises: “sit,” “down,” “stay,” “come” and “heel.” Each plays an important role in day-to-day communication between people and their dogs – improving pups’ manners even and their safety.

An experienced instructor can help guide you through issues, such as the timing of rewards when your dog “listens” and the best way to respond when he doesn’t listen. Even your facial expressions or body posture can affect your dog’s performance – subtle influences that you may not be able to detect without the help of a trainer. 

In some classes, time is also devoted to exercises and behaviors such as: jumping up, dropping objects on command, and controlled walking (without a formal “heel”). There may be socialization exercises and short lectures on relevant topics in addition to the training. 

An interesting evolution in thinking often occurs when people join training classes. Though they may have signed up for just one class – typically eight weeks of training – they enjoy the experience so much that they often re-enroll for the next level of training, and then the next. 

To teach your dog anything new, the successfully completed task must result in some kind of reward. It’s unrealistic to imagine that your dog will perform a task simply because it pleases you – though some do seem particularly keen to satisfy their owners. But petting a dog may not be enough for some critters, especially for those excited dogs who would rather cavort than be petted by you, their momentary obstacle.

In order to convince your dog that training exercises are fun, consider what he’ll work hardest for. For many dogs, the most compelling reward is a small piece of delicious food, such as breakfast cereal or freeze-dried liver. Others work for petting or praise. 
Applying What You’ve Both Learned 

Remember to use and practice exercises after you’ve been taught them. Your dog may “stay” beautifully in class, but may “act deaf” in other environments. So, help him practice – in your home, the backyard, near playgrounds and crowded shopping plazas. If you keep after him, he’ll remember to apply the skills he’s mastered in any circumstance, and will become the companion you always knew he could be.

Dealing with a Fearful Dog

Dealing with a Dogs with Fears 

It’s heartbreaking to see an anxious dog respond to everyday events by trembling, cowering, balking on his leash – or even biting. If your dog seems generally uneasy, or is frightened by specific places or events, you’ll be happy to hear that he can learn to become more confident.

Fear Can Be Good in Dogs

Fear can be a useful emotion for your dog. It warns him that something potentially painful, threatening, or dangerous is on the horizon, which may motivate him to escape. Or, if some ominous creature is approaching, his fear may lead to self-defense, perhaps causing the threat to withdraw.

Is Dog Fear Learned or Innate?

Fear may be a learned behavior, or it may be an intrinsic part of your dog’s personality. Some dogs are simply predisposed to be anxious and jumpy, just as others are stoic and resilient. The former may react with fear even to ordinary situations. For example, if your dog’s last veterinary visit was a little upsetting, you may have to carry him in for his next visit. Alternatively, a relatively resilient dog may acquire his fear because of an overwhelming, unforgettable adverse circumstance or event. Some important reasons for learned fear (and its exaggerated partner, phobia) include physical punishment, improper crating or other close confinements, and loud noises. If pushed far enough, your fearful or anxious dog may attempt to escape (sometimes frantically), submissively urinate, or even bite.

Treatment of Fearful Behavior in Dogs

Regardless of its specific roots, there are some common denominators in treating fearful dogs. First, because fear is stressful, and because stress and anxiety interfere with behavior modification, some veterinarians believe anti-anxiety medication may sometimes be helpful. Medication can be used for short-term or long-term management of the problem. 

Second, and especially if the cause of your dog’s fear is known, it helps to expose your dog to the feared situation incrementally while rewarding his calm behavior (a technique known as desensitization). For example, if your dog panics when a rollerblader whizzes by while you’re in the park, take him home and rehearse the basic commands “sit” and “stay,” using small food rewards. Then, take him back to the park and, working at a distance from the rollerbladers, rehearse the commands again there. Slowly inch toward the place where people are skating and continue to repeat the sit-stays at intervals, rewarding calm behavior and not catering to any mild apprehension. Your dog should never be allowed to become overtly fearful during the desensitization process. If he does, you have approached too quickly and should back off before starting again. As long as progress is made at each exposure, and your rewards are well timed, your dog will eventually be able to remain calm even when close to the skaters.

Dealing with a Biting Dog

Biting can be a troublesome outcome of fear. If your dog is aggressive through fear, your veterinarian can refer you to a behavior specialist for help with retraining. With patience and consistent effort, your dog may once again – or for the first time – become confident and calm in the face of what once was perceived by him as danger.

How to Teach Your Dog to “Come”

Coming to you when called is one of the more important skills your dog can learn. Although we strive never to put our dogs in unsafe situations, the “come” (or “recall”) command can avert a car-dog collision, a deer chase, or other hazards. On a more mundane but practical level, the “come” command presents your dog with opportunities for freedom precisely because you know you can call her back – in the park, on hiking trails, or anywhere.

To train your dog, you have to convince her that you’re more attractive than even temporary freedom. Training sessions should be short and rewards should always be given. But teaching a dog to come reliably is more difficult than it sounds; most dogs learn quickly that they can run faster than you can – and that it’s much more fun to escape than to walk placidly by your side.

Ideally, your dog shouldn’t be given freedom until she has proven her dependability at coming when called. Until then, you might limit her off-lead (leash) experiences to places where you won’t find it necessary to call her back, such as a fenced backyard. Enclosed areas are ideal for training because there’s no risk of escape (or injury) if your dog doesn’t return when you call her.

Live Free or Eat

How can you convince your dog that coming to you is better than running free? Two concepts to keep in mind are restraint (avoid allowing your dog to learn about the rewards of absolute freedom) and positive reinforcement (teach your dog that coming back when she’s called earns rewards).

Restraint can take the form of a long, lightweight check-type lead – check leads up to 50 feet long are available commercially – or just a simple six-foot lead. You need some tool for “capturing” your dog should she choose to be a fugitive from authority.

Positive reinforcements – or rewards – are crucial in any kind of training. For the average dog, food is an ideal reinforcer. Offer an immediate reward – a few pieces of sweetened breakfast cereal or freeze-dried liver bits – every time your dog returns on command, initially, at least. When you feel she’s more reliable about coming to you, wean her back to a reward intermittently, every second or third time, and taper off from there. However, there should always be some form of reward or praise at the end of the recall rainbow.

One Step at a Time

Starting in a non-distracting environment – such as your living room or the backyard -get your dog’s attention and then back away a short distance. Kneeling on the ground, hold your arms away from your sides and cheerfully shout, “Suzie, COME!” It may also help to run backward a few feet. Remember to keep your voice high and light; no dog is interested in coming to a stern-voiced, glum owner. If this doesn’t work, try “Suzie, come, good girl,” praising her even before she comes so that she knows she’s not in trouble.

Reward her for coming and start over, increasing your distance slightly. Keep these sessions short and don’t expect too much for the first few days. If your dog seems to be losing interest, stop the session after an easy success. As a general rule of dog training, sessions should always be short (approximately five to 10 minutes) and they should always end on a positive note. Gradually increase your distance and, eventually, environmental distractions. When you feel your dog is doing well, try her out in the park or another new place. 

Don’t remove your dog’s lead unless you know she’ll return to you; if you’re uncertain, walk up to her rather than calling her to you. Any opportunity to misbehave will quickly teach her that freedom’s more fun.

Never Punish

One critical rule of training is that you never scold your dog after she comes to you. This is important even if she has just chewed your custom-made, cowboy boots; if she approaches when called, you must praise and reward her. (It’s permissible and encouraged, however, to grit your teeth and count slowly to 100 to calm your nerves.) When your dog is familiar with what’s expected, try calling “come” while she’s busy sniffing or playing – again, a clothesline or other long lead, can provide a gentle reminder and eliminate the chances that she’ll reward herself while ignoring you.

How to Teach Your Dog to Heel

The “heel” command is a formal obedience exercise in which a dog walks precisely by a handler’s knee, matching her pace and immediately sitting when the handler halts. Your four-legged friend should know this valuable obedience exercise-for your sake and his.

As a pet owner whose dog is a companion first and obedience trial champion second (if at all), you may not be interested in the formal choreography of the “heel” exercise, either on or off lead (leash). However, though this particular command may have less day-to-day utility than “sit,” its usefulness may surprise you.


A Safety Tool

When navigating crowded streets, for example, you may wish your dog would walk politely beside you without pulling on his lead. Or, there may come a day when your dog’s leash is torn or lost and you have to maneuver him back to your car through a busy playground. Whatever the reason, “heel” may prove to be an important part of your dog’s obedience vocabulary, once he’s old enough to practice some serious self-control. While the formal “heel” command may have to wait until your puppy‘s a little older, even very young puppies can be taught to walk on lead without pulling.

A necessary first step, of course, is that your dog can walk on a leash without pulling. Unlike this practical skill, however, “heel” doesn’t permit your dog to sniff fire hydrants or otherwise stray from the very small window beside your left knee. In practical terms, you may decide that brief breaks in your dog’s otherwise undivided attention -e.g. for urination-are no problem, as long as he walks beside you again when asked.


Training with a Food Lure

The basis of positive “heeling” -as with other obedience exercises-is finding an enticing reward-such as food-and using it as a lure. Holding your dog’s leash in your right hand, while taking up its slack in your left, start with your dog on your left and tell him to “Sit!” While holding a food tidbit in your left hand, bring it to his nose and say, “Spot, HEEL!” in a bright voice. Next, walk briskly for about ten paces, keeping the food slightly elevated at your side. When you stop (not too abruptly!), lift the treat slightly or pull up on the lead so that your dog sits. Now you can reward him.

Training can be greatly facilitated by the use of a head collar or head halter (Note: In obedience competitions however, a buckle or training collar must be used). If you think obedience competition may be in your dog’s future, consider enrollment in an obedience training class-provided they use positive training methods-for this particular exercise. If competition isn’t in the stars for your loveable companion, even casual training should include at least an introduction to this useful exercise.


How to Teach Your Dog to “Sit”

The “sit” exercise is probably the most practical skill you can teach your dog. Whether you’re waiting at the curb of a crowded street or competing in an obedience trial, you’ll thank yourself (and your dog) for taking the time to master this exercise.

Teaching a dog to “sit” also provides a kind of obedience gateway to all the other basic exercises, including: “sit-stay,” “down,” “down-stay,” “come” and “heel.” Training should be fun and relatively easy: Use a food lure and positive reinforcement. Short, training sessions will help your dog learn quickly – even young puppies will be eager to work if the reward is enticing enough.

Using a Food Lure

Find a quiet indoor environment with few distractions. Start by using a small piece of food to lure your dog’s nose to point upward (toward the treat) and move the treat backwards over his head so that he naturally lowers his haunches to a sitting position. Don’t hold the treat too high or he may jump up for it.

Be prepared: As soon as he sits, give him the treat food. Repeat the exercise, adding the word “sit,” so the dog can learn quickly what you expect of him; rather than forcing his body into position, allow him to discover what is required on his own. (Note: If your dog jumps at the food, you’re probably holding it up too high). 

Once this exercise has been learned, take it on the road. When your dog has mastered the skill in the quietness of your yard, try asking him to sit in other places like on the sidewalk or in the garage. Then “up the ante” by having him follow the instruction in a busy, distracting place, like a park, supermarket entrance or a crowded sidewalk. As your dog proves he has learned the meaning of the word “sit,” taper off his rewards so that he only gets a treat every third or fourth time he sits. The goal of any reinforcement program should be to graduate to supplying rewards intermittently and on a variable schedule. By rewarding your dog unpredictably – but always continuing to offer rewards at times – you can best maintain his interest in the exercise.

Think Positively

The key to successful training is patience and a positive attitude. Scolding and physical force will only turn your dog off to the fun of these exercises. Try to keep your sessions short, approximately five to 10 minutes once or twice daily. Work with him only at times when he seems enthusiastic and attentive and end each session on a positive note. The more successful he feels, the more rewarding your efforts will be.

When Barking Is a Problem

It never stops. Or maybe it just seems that way. It begins in the morning, when the kids get up for school and gets louder as you head out of the door for work. In the evening, it starts up again while you fix dinner, talk on the phone – sometimes even while you watch TV. What happens while you’re away is anybody’s guess, but based on the notes from the neighbors, it can’t be good.

What you’ve got is a dog that barks too much. Now, what are you going to do about it?

Find the Cause of the Barking

 The first step in quieting your pooch is to understand why he’s raising such a ruckus in the first place. Dogs, after all, bark for all kinds of reasons. They bark when they’re anxious or when they’re lonely. They bark to draw attention to themselves or to warn someone encroaching on the property. Sometimes, they bark just because it feels good.

If the dog barks only when you’re home, he’s probably barking for one of two reasons: Either he wants attention or he’s trying to warn you about something. Most dog owners feel safer knowing that their dog will alert them to intruders, so they usually reward alarm barkers. Because you’re likely to want your dog to continue his warnings, you don’t want to discourage barking entirely, but the trick is to teach him to stop barking when you tell him to.

Training the Dog When to Bark

 When trying to curtail a dog’s barking, as with any other training program, be consistent and clear about just what you want your dog to do. If you tell him to be quiet, you must then enforce what you’ve instructed. It doesn’t work to yell “quiet” from three rooms away and then continue to talk on the telephone as your dog rants and raves at the window.

Instead, consider keeping your dog on an indoor lead and having him by your side at potentially problematic times. When you see he’s about to bark, pick up on the lead and tell him to sit. Better yet, pair the lead with a head halter – which gently pulls the dog’s head up, closing his mouth. When he stops barking, release the tension on the lead and praise him. An extra reward, a “shush cookie,” will emphasize your appreciation.

If your dog constantly demands your undivided attention, consider ignoring his demands – consistently – for a week. Try standing up and walking away whenever he starts to bark. This form of training, resulting in gradual “extinction” of barking, is very effective because it removes all rewards that, until now, were reinforcing the behavior. Keeping in mind that even scolding or brief eye contact can be interpreted by your dog as a reward, try to show no response at all. You can take this training a step further by giving your dog attention, such as petting, only when he is quiet. With patience, you can change many kinds of learned behavior through the process of extinction.

More Ways to Abate the Barking Dog

Sometimes, you can cut down on barking by using an anti-bark collar. These collars are most useful for dogs that bark when their owners are away and can’t correct them with voice commands. However, don’t use one with a dog that shows signs of anxiety; it will only make the problem worse. When left on their own, for example, some dogs become extremely stressed, and act out that behavior by barking non-stop. In that case, the dog should be treated for the underlying cause of the problem – separation anxiety – not just his barking.

Anti-bark collars utilize ultrasound, electric shock, and vibrating devices – they work by punishing the dog when he barks. Electric shock may be effective, but is viewed by many as inhumane: Other types of collars that do not rely on inflicting pain are more acceptable. Recently, an anti-bark collar containing citronella oil, its spray triggered by barking, has become available and can be an effective tool for distracting the dog from barking (available from Animal Behavior Systems, Inc., Tampa, Fla.). Remember that some anti-bark collars can be triggered by dogs other than the ones wearing them, resulting in inappropriate punishment. These collars are not appropriate in multi-dog homes in which other barking dogs dwell.

Luckily, most dogs will respond to some intervention to curtail their barking. Whether you simply bring an outdoor dog inside (which should calm the neighbors) or take the time to apply behavior-modification techniques, you can cause a dog to be less of a nuisance and to be more socially acceptable.

Teaching Your Dog Not to Jump

When good behavior is consistently rewarded and jumping is ignored, dogs can quickly learn that keeping four feet on the ground is a preferable posture.

No Rewards Allowed

Training books and videos offer a number of creative methods for teaching a jumping dog to stop. Why, then, do so many dog owners continue to be subjected to this often unwelcome advance. The most important reason lies in the way that dogs learn.

Any behavior that results in a reward is likely to be repeated. Rewards may be obvious or may be quite subtle. When dogs are excited, they naturally jump up onto their “target.” Over the course of time they are met with hands petting them or pushing them away – with voices sometimes warm, at other times stern or surprised. All of these responses can be rewarding – and, therefore, all of them may reinforce jumping up behavior. When such rewards are scarce and intermittent – they are even more powerful reinforcers. So even if the family is working hard to ignore jumping up, the occasional reward supplied by a long-lost, third cousin can undo all the good work.

Take Action

What can be done to plant those four feet firmly on the ground? First, inform all family members and visitors that, from this day forward, jumping of any kind is banned. Peoples’ only reaction to jumping should be no reaction. Everyone should remain utterly silent, averting their gaze and adopting an indifferent posture.

Enlist the help of a neighbor or friend who can knock and enter repeatedly. Leash your dog and arm yourself with small food treats (perhaps placing a jar of treats near the door for visitors to dispense) Tell your dog to sit before he jumps up, while he’s still calm enough to comply. Reward non-jumping behavior with food treats.

Persistent attempts to jump can be corrected by saying, “OFF,” walking your dog briskly in a circle, then telling him to sit (followed by a reward). Repeat the exercise as needed. Unlike pushing, petting or begging your dog to “get down,” this exercise is unambiguous and rewards an alternative behavior – sitting. Your chances of success will be far greater if you work with others who can “provoke” your dog by entering the house or passing you on the street, time and time again. You should set up the training.

At each pass, tell your dog to sit and reward this preferred behavior. In time, shift the control from yourself to the “visitor,” who supplies attention only when your dog sits. Before you know it your dog will earn your heartfelt praise by sitting calmly instead of jumping up.

A properly fitted head halter, such as the Gentle Leader, can be an invaluable tool for facilitating this type of retraining. All that is required is to pull forward and up to position the dog in a “sit” position. Then immediately release tension on the lead and praise the dog lavishly for sitting.

How to House-train Your Puppy

By using a puppy crate or confined area, and plenty of rewards for outdoor urination and defecation, you can successfully train your puppy to “go” outdoors.

For many new puppy owners, house-training is the first order of business, after lots of cuddling. It is also the first hurdle encountered by new puppy owners. The good news is that, unless the new puppy was previously confined for long periods in dirty living conditions, she will naturally tend to avoid doing her “business” in places where she must sleep or eat. This instinct is important when it comes to house-training. It’s also one of the reasons for acclimating your puppy to a crate, or some other small area for times when she can’t be supervised.

How Long Can She “Hold It”?

Even young puppies can be expected to “hold it” for at least a short period of time. As a general rule, that can translate to one hour for each month of age, give or take an hour. For example, your 3-month old puppy might easily resist urination for three to four hours and should be fine in the crate for that short time.

Probably because she sleeps for much of the time, she’ll often learn to stay dry overnight before she can repeat her performance during the day. If it’s necessary to leave her for longish intervals, your puppy shouldn’t be crated. Instead, consider the use of a baby gate to confine her to a slightly larger area, such as the kitchen or laundry room. This will still allow her to maintain a natural cleanliness because she can eat and sleep away from the areas where she has soiled.

To ease cleanup and train your new pup to urinate and defecate on a specific surface, place newspapers in the previously soiled area. The use of newspapers, so-called paper training, can be avoided altogether if you can take your puppy outdoors frequently.

Your Time – Your Responsibility

The best situation, of course, is to be home with your puppy, or at least to have a flexible schedule allowing home visits every few hours, until she’s house trained. She should be taken outdoors to a designated “toilet” area every few hours but if you take her too often she may become confused about the purpose of the visits. Immediately after urination or defecation, reward her with a small food tidbit.

If the toilet visit is unproductive, go back indoors after just a few minutes and restrict the puppy in a crate, gated area, or even on a leash near you for 15 minutes and then try again. With persistence, she’ll quickly learn to associate that outdoor area with elimination. Once she has urinated and defecated outdoors, she can have freedom indoors for a short time, at least.

Don’t Punish Your Pup

Because punishment can be both mentally and physically harmful to your young puppy, it should not be used during house-training. If you catch your pup in the act, a simple handclap will distract her so you can quickly move her outdoors to finish the job. If a mess is found after the fact, punishment will only confuse her. Instead of scolding, try to figure out how to avoid the accident next time. For example, perhaps other family members can watch her more closely the next time you’re busy with dinner.

With some time, patience, and the help of a crate or confinement area, and with rewards for using the outdoor “bathroom,” your puppy can be successfully trained to keep both her “den” and yours clean and dry.

How to Deal with an Overactive, Uncontrollable Dog

Dealing with Overactive Uncontrollable Dogs

Some dogs seem to live a manic life and are like furry wind-up toys with springs: While other dogs walk, they run. While others nap, they pace. On the leash, they tug and yank their owners down the street. Off the leash, they seek confrontation and then may run off. They bark excessively, jump up on nicely attired strangers, mouth and tug the leash, steal food off the counter, and demand a tremendous amount of attention.

Why Are Dogs Overactive?

Overactive dogs are typically normal dogs with learned behavior problems rather than medical anomalies. It is relatively rare for a dog to suffer from hyperkinesis, the canine equivalent of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Dogs with hyperkinesis are strikingly frenetic in their behavior. Their heart rates and breathing rates are extremely high and they rarely rest – even at home – careening around non-stop until they collapse in exhaustion.

Some breeds are genetically predisposed to be physically active – sporting breeds, for example. But that doesn’t mean they are uncontrollable. Far from it. Most overactive dogs have learned to be that way because their jumping, barking, running and tugging have earned them fun or attention – sometimes lots of it.

For example, supposing your dog begins to bark or steal objects whenever you’re occupied by a telephone call. Let’s say you try to ignore the behavior, giving a few half-hearted reprimands, then hanging up and scolding your dog. You might not realize it, but your dog would have achieved a fairly impressive result. He would have monopolized your attention while you were on the phone and succeeded in getting you all to himself. Even a little scolding is better than the alternative of being ignored.

In general, problems of this nature can be addressed with a combination of verbal control, physical restraint, and increased exercise. All dogs benefit from learning, and then rehearsing basic obedience – especially responding to “sit,” “down,” “sit-stay” and “down-stay.” These maneuvers are more than meaningless drills because they allow you to “speak” to your dog and educate him on how you would like him to respond.

Effective training should include effective rewards – basically, fun and/or food. Dogs learn best when the consequences of their actions are highly rewarding. To gain more control over your dog’s behavior, consistently instruct him to “sit,” or say “down,” to earn what he wants, including food, petting, play, or any other kind of attention.

How To Control an Out-of-Control Dog

  • Use a head collar. Out-of-control dogs almost all universally respond to a head collar, or head halter, a humane and simple tool for training that’s available at quality pet stores and through veterinarians. Slip the collar on, attach a leash and get on with your training.
  • A leash is valuable – even indoors. Dogs that jump, leap and run out of reach should be kept on leash before a problem actually occurs. For example, when that telephone rings, immediately attach a leash to your barking friend. He will quickly learn to behave appropriately if his good behavior (such as lying down to chew a “my-owner-is-on-the-telephone” toy) is rewarded while his “bad” behavior is ignored or corrected each and every time.
  • Increase your dog’s exercise. All dogs enjoy and appreciate regular exercise. Some dogs, however, require particularly vigorous exercise, such as running, swimming or regular and extended games of fetch. Whatever your dog’s exercise regime, consider increasing both its duration and quality.
  • Review any medications your dog is taking. Though uncommon, certain medications can lead to hyperactivity and anxiety. Two notable examples are thyroid hormone supplements (ask your veterinarian to check your dog’s blood level once a stable dose is attained) and bronchodilator medicines used for bronchitis or “asthma-like” symptoms.
  • Consider professional help. If the problem seems too difficult to change without help, ask your veterinarian for assistance or for a referral to a behavioral specialist. Although most overactive dogs are normal and will respond to behavior modification, a minority may be suffering from true, physiological hyperactivity, which may require medication in addition to a training program.